He began to work actively in photography while dean of religious studies at Alberta College, Edmonton, between 1962 and 1965. This prompted a move to Toronto in 1966 for a year at Berkeley Studio, the United Church of Canada still photography and film production house. Then, until the late 1970s, Patterson criss-crossed Canada for the Still Photography Division of the National Film Board of Canada, at the same time developing a large roster of professional clients in editorial and advertising fields. Always a strong supporter of the amateur photography community, he acted as president of The Toronto Guild for Colour Photography, of which he is a life-member.
In 1973, Patterson returned to New Brunswick to pursue personal artistic interests and to establish a workshop of photography and visual design. Since then, he teaches annually several week-long classes, and in 1984, he co-founded the Namaqualand Photographic Workshops in southern Africa. From the beginning, these led to invitations to his sharing through workshops in the United States, Israel, New Zealand and Australia as well.
His teaching and his books have made Patterson a ‘household name’ in photographic circles. Many around the world have come to know his warmth, thoughtfulness and generosity through half- and full-day seminars–even large groups of 50 to 4000–in the visual arts, music, education and ecology. Since 1977, he has written and illustrated four instructional books on photography and visual design with Workshop, a fifth, in the works. The books Shadow Light: A Photographer’s Life for Harper Collins of Canada and Odysseys: Meditations and Thoughts for a Life’s Journey are major retrospectives of his writings and photographs. CBC TV’s “Man Alive”, “Sunday Arts and Entertainment” and “Adrienne Clarkson Presents” gave the larger public an insight into this fine photographer.
Between 1973 and 1989, Patterson served as an elected trustee of New Brunswick School District No 19. He served for eight years as vice-president and director of Masterfile, a major stock photography agency; two years on the board of AIDS Saint John and six years as a trustee of the Nature Conservancy of Canada. He has donated his Shampers’ Bluff property to the Conservancy for an ecological reserve and education area.